Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Former Cuban baseball player Gabriel Pierre, the renowned third-base of Santiago de Cuba and a Cuban sports luminary, has arrived in Miami with his family after requesting political asylum from US authorities.
Pierre, a talented slugger who accumulated 306 home-runs in 18 national baseball series and became one of Santiago de Cuba’s “fear-inspiring” stars, arrived in Miami in the early morning of this past Saturday, after crossing the Mexican border and requesting asylum in the United States.
“I am happy to have put the very difficult life I had in Cuba behind me and to be able to give my children a better future in this society,” said 48-year-old Pierre during an interview with CafeFuerte.
The baseball player had travelled to Mexico with his wife, Amariys Coloma, and his children (12-year-old Ruth Karla and 11-year-old Abraham) to visit his older daughter, currently residing in the Mexican capital.
Monday night, Pierra appeared with his family on Miami’s Channel 41 TV show A Fondo (“In Depth”).
A Victim of Discrimination
“The decision to come to the United States was already made when we left Cuba. I’ve been marginalized, I was denied the possibility of travelling abroad as a trainer because of my religious beliefs,” stated Pierre, a Jehovah’s Witness.
The athlete declared he would like to become a baseball coach in the United States and added he feels fully capable of contributing his technical knowledge wherever it may be needed.
Pierre is the second former baseball star from Santiago de Cuba and Cuba’s national team to request asylum in the United States in recent weeks. In July, CafeFuerte revealed the presence in Tampa of Antonio Pacheco, captain of Cuba’s national team and a renowned figure of Cuban baseball.
“I’ve already spoken with Pacheco over the phone and I wish him and his entire family the best,” Pierre said.
The former baseball player described his situation in Cuba following his retirement in 2001 as “uncomfortable.”
“They closed all doors on me. They were calling me from Japan to go and coach there and the authorities wouldn’t let me, and life in Cuba is becoming more and more expensive. They’ve told me you have to pay for everything here, but it’s already like that in Cuba. Everything is extremely expensive and, if you don’t have an income in hard currency, your finances hit the ground,” he told reporters.
Batting One’s Way to Success
Pierre stood out as a third-baseman at the time in which the starting position on the national team was held by the spectacular Omar Linares. Nonetheless, his talent as a batter and tenacity earned him a slot on the team.
In addition to breaking the 300-home-run barrier, he had 1,577 hits and 302 doubles, 1,043 RBIs and 1,031 runs scored. He drew 972 walks the 12th most in Cuban baseball history. At the end of his career his lifetime batting average was 295.
His defensive stats were also impressive. In 1,585 games he made 4,974 plays, with only 220 errors for a fielding average of .956. He also participated in 371 double plays.
“There was much rivalry with Linares and [Lazaro] Vargas at the time, but we got along very well. The rivalry with Vargas was part of the age-old confrontation between Santiago de Cuba and Havana’s Industriales.”
Baseball in Crisis
Asked about unofficial rumors about the use of steroids by Cuban baseball players at the time, Pierre denied ever having used illegal substances to improve his performance.
“I believe there were even comments about that on Cuban radio and [sports announcer] Eddy Martin told me I could register a complaint. It all had to do with rivalries among provinces,” he remarked.
Pierre’s opinion about the situation of Cuban baseball today is not very optimistic.
“Cuban baseball is facing a crisis,” he said. “You can’t ask people to give their best and live on miserable salaries, not when the most talented players are leaving the country, succeeding abroad and making millions. It’s an absurd situation.”
Like all outstanding players from his generation, Pierre had the opportunity to play in the Big Leagues and establish himself abroad, but the idea never crossed his mind.
“I didn’t want to leave my family behind. Either we all left or we all stayed,” he declared.